In-depth reviews

Tesla Model S review - Reliability and Safety

The Model S hasn't yet forged a reputation for reliability, but it's won five stars for safety

There were a couple of instances of fires in the Model S early in its production, and the company recalled 29,000 charging adaptors as a result. But aside from this initial glitch, the Model S has reportedly been trouble-free. 

In spite of its advanced digital technologies and lack of traditional switchgear, on our test we found that everything on the Tesla Model S worked perfectly fine. The non-digital/hardware components feel well fixed together too, and the car certainly feels as though it has been built to last. And while it’s a relatively new company, Tesla is responsible for building a run of 2,600 Toyota RAV4 EVs, as well as working with Mercedes on the electric B-Class – so it has a lot of experience.

One of the things that’ll help make owning the Model S such an adventure is the company’s stated intention to continually update the software installed on the car over its lifetime. Whether this causes any long-term problems for owners remains to be seen. In mid-2017, it even issued an over-the-air fix for a potential airbag fault, which would otherwise have prompted a nationwide recall notice.

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The Model S performed well in EuroNCAP's crash tests in 2014, where it was awarded five stars with an 82 per cent rating for adult occupant safety, 77 per cent for child occupants and 66 per cent for pedestrian impacts. Its safety assistance package was rated 71 per cent, with the testers highlighting the fact that an autonomous City Braking system was not available at the time of the test.


The battery cells come from Panasonic and, while they’ll lose some charge after 10 years of use, Tesla provides buyers with an eight-year, 125,000-mile warranty on the battery. It's transferrable between owners too, even if you never service the car. The rest of the car is covered for a reasonable four years, but with a rather ungenerous 50,000 mileage cap.


A fixed-price servicing plan covers service parts and wearing items such as wipers and brake pads (not tyres). At the time of writing the price is £1,800, which breaks down to £450 per year. That's pretty pricey compared to many more mainstream rivals.


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